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Fiery Nara festival promises to spark some good luck for its visitors

by Henry Wong

Staff Writer

Shuni-e, a ceremony consisting of a series of rituals that have celebrated the coming of spring for over 1,000 years, will take place at Nara’s Todai-ji Temple this month. The rituals are performed to bring good fortune to all of those who visit.

During the two-week-long event, the Otaimatsu (fire ceremony) will be performed. Visitors gather in the temple’s Nigatsu-do Hall after sunset and wait for a priest to emerge on the balcony above. The priest then holds out torches over the crowd, who touch the sparks that fall from those torches to receive good luck.

On the final day, the last ritual to take place is the Omizutori (water ceremony). The temple’s priest draws water from a well in the temple that only fills up during this time of year and passes it to visitors. Guests then wash their hands with the sacred water, which is believed to help purify the spirit.

Surprisingly, even though the Otaimatsu happens nightly, the water ceremony has become the more popular of the two and generally represents all of Shuni-e.

Shuni-e will be held Mar. 1-14 at Todai-ji Temple in Zoshi-cho, Nara. Events start around 7 p.m. nightly, duration varies. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.japan-guide.com/e/e4110.html